“We would wish to be enrolled in school but our parent could not because there is no money. We are pained and feel dejected seeing other kids going to school every morning,” Buhari and Ibrahim, Kano State indigenes, but resident in Gosa, a metropolitan village in Abuja, who spoke in Hausa, said.

“Our parents are not here, we are with our elder sister. The only school we have been is Islamic (Arabic) school,” the eight and six years old kids, respectively, added.

But for emphasis, there is no gain reiterating the fact that finding a lasting solution to resolve the problem of Out-of-School syndrome in Nigeria has eluded the yester years’ administration, and it has continued to pose a major concern to the today’s administration.

The pathetic stories of Buhari and his younger brother, Ibrahim is a drop in the ocean the plights of millions of Nigerian children on the street.

In spite their tender ages, Buhari and Ibrahim have become familiar face seen constantly, against their wish, sweeping the popular Gosa market pedestal bridge on daily bases to make ends meet while they ought to have been in school.

Out-of-School children, according to the United Nations are those kids who are yet to be enrolled in any formal education excluding pre-primary education. The age range for out-of-school children is 6-11 years.

And in it Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN affirmed that every child has a right to education. The purpose of education is to enable the child to develop to his or her fullest possible potential and to learn respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The general principles of the Convention which are relevant to education cover non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the child’s right to life, survival and development, and the child’s right to express opinions.

Article 4 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child, with the caption ‘Government must do all they can to make sure every child can enjoy their rights by creating systems and passing laws that promote and protect children’s rights.’

Also, Article 28 titled, ‘Right to Educate,’ states that every child has the right to an education. Primary education must be free and different forms of education must be available to every child. Discipline in schools must respect children’s dignity and their rights.’

While Article 29, titled, ‘goal of education,’ states that: Education must develop every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for human rights as well as respect for their parents, their own and other cultures, and the environment.

To be explicit, i may need to digress a bit to English language calling your attention on one word used on the above article repeatedly, ‘MUST’ is the word, and i hope you will ‘must’ forgive me for digressing.

‘Must’ in Merriam Website dictionary is an auxiliary verb which means: Be compelled by physical necessity to; be compelled by social consideration to, and lastly, be required by law, custom, or moral conscience.

Affirmatively, the Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwiemeka Nwajiuba, opined that, “Ensuring that Out-of-School children are in school is not only a moral and legal obligation but also a productive investment that will guarantee the future of the Nigerian children as enshrined in the child rights Act of 2003.”

The weighty questions to ask at this point is; How has this right to child’s education fared under the present government to ensure that every child irrespective of religious, political, ethnicity and social-economic status are enrolled into school?

Speaking on what the government has done and is doing to eradicate this quagmire, Nwajiuba, who had painstakingly toured most states in the north where this syndrome is most prevalence to proffer solution on behalf of the Ministry said, “In continuation of discussions on community based strategies and advocacy towards eradicating the Out-of-School children syndrome in Nigeria, I was hosted by the Emir of Fika, Yobe State,  Alh. Mohammed Alkali Ibn Aball and Alh. Mohammed Ciroma.

“It is our hope that we are able to provide programs that will help these children access quality education and ultimately gain the skills and knowledge for lifelong learning,” the minister said.

According to him, the Federal Government had put in place programs that will help the affected children access quality education.

One of such programs was the launch of the Better Education Service Delivery for All, BESDA, in 2018 where prevalence states benefited from the financial support doled out by the federal government.

During his visit to Yola, Adamawa State, to flag- off the program, the minister stated that the FG secured the sum of N220b loan from the World Bank to help states tackle the Out-of-School children challenge.

Dr. Nwajiuba said that the fund was given to states on an interest of free basis to enable them fight the scourge as well as strengthen basic education in Nigeria.

The cardinal objective of the BESDA program, the minister said, is to increase equitable access for Out-of-School children, improve literacy and strengthen accountability at the basic education level.

He revealed that through BESDA program, over one million children have been enrolled in schools in states where it has so far been launched.

“Since inception of BESDA, 1,053,422 children have been enrolled out of the previous figures of 10, 193,918 out-of-school children in the country,” Nwajiuba said.

The program was focused on 17 states in the country, which included the entire 14 states of the North West and North East geo-political zones as well as Oyo, Ebonyi and Rivers States. Selection of the states was based on the prevalence of the scourge.

According to a Personnel Audit Report, there are success stories in some states like Kano where no fewer than 75,650 Out-of-School children, from which 44,550 were girls and 31,100 boys have been enrolled in schools across the 23 local government areas of the state, thereby improving the literacy rate of 10, 159 children in 1,513 learning centers. Also, in Adamawa, over 50’000 children have already been taken off the streets in the state.

Apart this fund, there is an implementation of a five-year special project known as Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment, targeting the Out-of-school girls between the ages of 10 and 20 at the secondary school level. Also, the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, has been engaging in interventions towards attaining this objective which says, “All children have the right to go to school and learn, regardless of who they are or where they live”

How many states in Nigeria have domesticated this fundamental United Nations convention that provides for the inalienable rights of the child aside the FG’s policies and financial support?

State governments must enact and implement an actionable law, backing it up with an itinerant task force team who would move round the nooks and crannies of the rural areas during school hours to hunt for children hawking while they were to be in schools, bringing their culpable parents and guardians to book while ensuring the child returns to school, as well established a strong implementation team to include traditional and religious leaders in all the local governments and districts.

Amidst some vigorous efforts by spirited individuals and organizations to mop up these helpless kids like Buhari and Ibrahim from the street, all hands must be on deck to complement the courageous few if this cankerworm that has been left unattended to for donkey years must be defeated and if possible annihilated any time soon.

“For when a nation educates her population, they in turn become human resources.” –Nwajiuba.

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